Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip are complaining about the Hamas-run Field Control Force, which has increased deployment in the Gaza Strip to prevent the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza.
Sources recently told Al Ayyam that “a few hundred” members of the Field Control Force have been deployed along the northern and eastern borders of the Gaza Strip. The forces are particularly concentrated in areas from which Palestinian terror groups’ rockets and mortars are generally fired.
According to Al Ayyam, the Field Control Force “has managed to foil many attempts to fire rockets [from Gaza into Israel] over the past two weeks.” Since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November, at least 37 rockets and mortars have been launched from Gaza toward Israel. The majority of these have been fired by Salafi jihadist groups. A number of the rockets and mortars have failed to reach Israeli territory and landed in the Gaza Strip, however.
Tensions between Hamas and the Salafi jihadists in the Gaza Strip have increased over recent weeks, in particular since the targeted killing by Israel of Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a well known jihadist, on April 30.
On May 1, the Ibn Taymiyyah Media Center (ITMC), a jihadist media unit tied to the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC), released a statement to jihadist forums which seemed to suggest that the Salafi jihadists believe Masshal was set up by elements within Hamas. This matches the claim of an April 30 statement from a Facebook page for supporters of Salafi jihadists in Gaza suggesting that it appeared Masshal had been offered “on a golden platter” to Israel by Hamas.
On the same day as Masshal’s death, Asharq al Awsat reported that Hamas was increasing its efforts to stop rocket fire from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. Members of Hamas’ al Qassam Brigades have been “deployed in the border areas of the Gaza Strip replacing policemen with the aim of preventing the firing of rockets from Gaza,” the report stated. In addition, al Qassam Brigades members have reportedly “set up fixed and mobile roadblocks” to search cars and find those firing the rockets. Another recent report from Al Ayyam similarly stated that Hamas has warned Salafi jihadist groups in the Gaza Strip that those who fire rockets at the current time will be arrested and that the firing rockets should not occur “without a general national consensus” on the issue.
On May 2, Hamas’ Interior Ministry announced the arrest of six Salafists, four of whom were accused of stealing rockets from other terror groups in the Gaza Strip. The ITMC condemned the announcement and said those detained had been arrested only because of their beliefs. Five days later, the ITMC accused members of the Field Control Force of firing on and injuring at least one Salafi jihadist in the northern Gaza Strip.
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